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Get connected

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Meet Shalom Klein, chairman of Jewish B2B Networking 
03/29/2011

Get connected photo

Shalom Klein facilitating an introduction to one of the networking event attendees.

You might say Shalom Klein was born to schmooze.

In fact, within hours of our interview, I already had several emails from Klein connecting me to people I should know.

It’s this passion for networking and entrepreneurial spirit that makes Klein so successful at what he does. As the chairman of Jewish B2B Networking, Klein spends his days (and most likely his nights) making connections for small businesses in the Chicago Jewish community.

About a year and a half ago, Klein left his PR job in New York to come home to Skokie and work for the family business—Moshe Klein & Associates, Ltd., which handles bookkeeping and accounting for small businesses. Klein said it’s his nature to stay in touch, and so he naturally began connecting people.

In June of 2010, Klein decided he wanted to introduce his clients, family and friends and held his first event at Slice of Life in Skokie. While he expected a small turnout of maybe 20 people, 75 people showed up.

“The outcome was great,” Klein said. “People were already doing business with people they met that day.”

And just like that, Jewish B2B Networking was born. In just nine months, Jewish B2B Networking has a mailing list of 12,000 people and over 3,000 people have come to events—plus, at least two or three dozen people have found jobs thanks to connections made during these events. Each month, hundreds of people show up for monthly networking meetings—175 people showed up to a speednetworking event at 7:30a.m.—and monthly networking open houses held at different businesses. Events are also being organized in Detroit and St. Louis.

“I believe we’ve tapped into the small business community,” Klein said. His events attract a diverse crowd, with about 80 percent looking to connect business to business, and about 20 percent looking for jobs.

A few months ago, Klein launched the website JewishB2Bnetworking.com where members can register for events, create profiles, search for jobs and post to a blog.

“The goal is stimulating the Jewish and Jewish-friendly small business community and people doing business with each other…[to] create that network and create business opportunities around Chicago,” he said.

Jewish B2B Networking and Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), a JUF agency, have been collaborating on programming, presentations and reaching out to the community—and according to Gail Gruen, executive director of JVS; they are planning more collaboration in the future.

Klein is also the publisher of  Jewish Business News , a monthly publication with a circulation of 15,000 that he launched this January available at local businesses synagogues, kosher and kosher-style restaurants.

And in June, just a year after his first event, Jewish B2B Networking is planning a free, all-day event featuring a business trade show, networking, job fair and employment expo with big name speakers.

‘White Noise’

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Gritty rock musical presents a cautionary tale 
03/22/2011

‘White Noise’ photo 1x

White Noise, the new raw rock musical, isn’t Mary Poppins—that’s for sure. Don’t expect your usual romp at the theater. An original musical, White Noise, opening in Chicago at the Royal George Theatre in April, is gritty and provocative and explores in-your-face issues of bigotry and hatred.

The show, produced by Whoopi Goldberg, is a cautionary tale examining how the public is exploited into buying into messages of hate, bigotry, and racism. The plot follows a powerful producer at a major record label who capitalizes on controversy and media spin to groom two diametrically opposed bands—a neo Nazi rock band and a gangsta rap duo—into well-branded blockbuster stars.

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Whoopi Goldberg and Sergio Trujillo during rehearsal.
Photo credit: CROMCO

Set against the backdrop of modern rock, pop, and hip hop music, the show is loosely inspired by the real life Gaede sisters, twin teens who sing about white supremacy and Hitler. White Noise shadows two beautiful (on the exterior) teenage singing sisters, Eden and Eva Siller, who promote messages of white power through coded lyrics and tunes.

The show explores how anything with good packaging can sell, according to Sergio Trujillo, the show’s director and choreographer, who has also choreographed such musicals as the 2009 revival of Guys and Dolls, The Addams Family, and Next to Normal. “In the show, the public is buying into these beautiful girls who are absolutely perfect with phenomenal music,” he said. “The lyrics are coded so America is really pumping up these girls. We have this celebrity puffing that we do in our society, and the media just manipulates what we want to buy and listen to.”

‘White Noise’ photo 3

From left: Actor Douglas Sills, Eric Morris, Emily Padgett, Mackenzie Mauzy, and Patrick Murney. Photo credit: CROMCO

Since Jews are targets of hatred, the creators of White Noise hope the Chicago Jewish community will turn out for the show and start a dialogue. Douglas Sills, an actor in the play, and David Alpert, assistant director of the musical, are both Jewish and find the show an important cautionary tale for Jews.

Sills plays the morally corrupt Max, who discovers the neo-Nazi rock band. “The Jewish value system of questioning explored in the show appeals to me,” he said. “Listen carefully, listen better, and ask questions. Be aware that just because someone says something in a news magazine doesn’t mean it’s news. Just because it’s music doesn’t mean it sends a good message. You have an obligation to sift through messages.”

Being Jewish has always been important to Alpert, too, the son of a rabbi. “Growing up in Sunday school, we would watch Schindler’s List and learn about the Holocaust. These messages are still out there today. We have to understand where hate comes from and how it’s packaged and sold in many different ways.”

Inspired by real life, this musical contains language that may not be suitable for those not yet in high school.

White Noise officially opens at the Royal George Theatre on Saturday, April 9, with preview performances running April 1-8. The show is announced to run through June 5. For more information, visit  www.whitenoisebroadway.com . For tickets, call (312) 988-9000, visit whitenoisetickets.com, or visit   www.ticketmaster.com .

White Noise is offering a discounted ticket special exclusively to the JUF/JF community and Oy!Chicago readers. For all Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday evening performances from April 1 through 28, you can buy tickets at the group ticket rate of $40 (plus fees) as a single ticket buyer. To take advantage of the offer, visit  www.ticketmaster.com and use code “JUFAPR.”

‘Downtown Seder’

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Entertainers to retell the timeless Passover story—Windy City-style 
03/15/2011

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Comedian Judy Gold will perform at the Chicago seder.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Michael Dorf fondly recalls Passover seders with his family. His father would lead, adding supplemental readings with writings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and texts on black slavery, applying the lessons of freedom from Egypt to relevant current humanitarian issues.

Many years later, Dorf—a successful concert promoter living in Manhattan—created a Passover tradition of his own called Downtown Seder, at the time held at one of his music venues, the Knitting Factory.

Downtown Seder, which Dorf launched more than a decade ago, brings together some 20 artists, musicians, comedians, and political figures to present the classic Passover story to an audience. Performers, seated with guests throughout the room, expound on different sections of the haggadah.

“Matisyahu has sung Chad Gadya (a playful Passover song about a goat), Dr. Ruth has talked about the Hillel sandwich (made of matzah and bitter herbs), and Lou Reed has been the wise child. It’s an all-star event,” Dorf said.

This spring, for the first time, Dorf will transport Downtown Seder to Chicago for a Windy City-style retelling of the Passover story. The seder, to be held on Wednesday, April 13, at 8 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Sidney R. Yates Gallery, will feature a mix of Chicago talent and imports from other cities.

“In the classic opening line of the haggadah, it says you should tell the story of leaving Egypt in a language you understand so you can really understand the meaning behind the story,” Dorf said. “For many, like me, the arts—whether it’s music or comedy or even a political form—is a language that we understand.”

Fresh from his victory, Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to appear at the seder and read a portion of the Haggadah.

Among the entertainers slated to appear at the Chicago seder are Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza, who will perform a set with flamenco guitarist Javier Rubial following the seder meal; New York comedian/writer Judy Gold; and Anshe Emet Synagogue’s Cantor Alberto Mizrahi.

‘Downtown Seder’ photo 2

Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza will perform a set with flamenco guitarist Javier Rubial following the seder.

Also expected to perform are the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Chicken Fat Klezmer Orchestra, Joshua Nelson & Kosher Gospel Singers, and Stereo Sinai; comedians Good for the Jews, plus Chicago comedian Aaron Freeman and Second City performer Susan Messing. Illinois Holocaust Museum Director Richard S. Hirschhaut also plans to attend, while Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and comedian Lewis Black are expected to call in via video.

Laura Frankel, executive chef of Spertus Kosher Catering (featuring cuisine by Wolfgang Puck), will cater the kosher seder, certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

Dorf is also the founder of City Winery Chicago, the first offshoot of his City Winery in Manhattan, planning to open its doors in the Chicago Loop this fall. The full winery plans to include two wine bars, a restaurant, and a performance and event space. The seder will feature kosher wine, supervised by the Orthodox Union, from the new winery. The wine will be opened and poured by CRC mashgiachs (kashrut supervisors). This is a rare exception that will allow City Winery Chicago to display their new wine.

‘Downtown Seder’ photo 3

New York concert promoter Michael Dorf transports Downtown Seder to Chicago this spring.

Gold, who is working on her upcoming one-woman show in Manhattan called It’s Jewdy’s Show—My Life as a Sitcom, has appeared at Downtown Seder in years past. “We [Jews] read the haggadah every year. It’s our tradition, something you can expect,” she said. “For artists whose lives are completely unpredictable, to retell a story that’s been told for thousands of years in our own way is amazing.”

Gold’s role at the seder is to sing Dayenu— “it would have been enough for us.” “Of course I do Dayenu because I can incorporate my mother into it,” said Gold, who also wrote the one-woman show and book of the same name called 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother. “Needless to say, I have a Jewish mother and the phrase “it would have been sufficient” has never come out of her mouth.”

Net proceeds from the Downtown Seder will be divided between JUF’s beneficiary, The Ark and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Only 400 tickets for the Downtown Seder are available, priced at $118 and $500, with tables of eight available for $1800 and $3600. To purchase a Seder ticket or for more information, visit  www.citywinery.com/seder .

Jewish Federation funnels aid for Pacific earthquake-tsunami relief

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03/11/2011

Jewish Federation funnels aid for Pacific earthquake-tsunami relief photo

Hikosaemon/CC
Smoke rises from a burning building in a Tokyo neighborhood after an 8.9-magnitude earthquakes hit Japan, March 11, 2011.

In the wake of the worst earthquake in Japan’s history, and the subsequent tsunamis impacting nations across the Pacific, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has opened an emergency mailbox to provide humanitarian aid to the survivors on the ground.

Funds primarily will be distributed through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), with its 97-year history of providing compassionate, effective emergency relief to the non-Jewish world, and IsraAID, the coordinating body of Israeli charities devoted to global relief work.

100% of collected funds will go directly to aid the victims; the Jewish Federation will absorb any administrative costs.

Individuals can contribute online, by phone at 312.444.2869 or by mail, making checks payable to: Jewish Federation Pacific Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund, c/o Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, 30 S. Wells St., Room 3023, Chicago, IL 60606

"Our community has a tremendous track record of providing timely, non-sectarian relief through a Jewish conduit in the wake of disasters throughout the U.S. and worldwide,” said Jewish Federation President Steven B. Nasatir. “As the Chicago Jewish community’s central address for meeting human needs, the Federation is proud to provide a vehicle for emergency relief from our community.”

In recent years, the Jewish Federation also has provided critical aid to those affected by the catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti, China and South Asia; the massive forest fires in Northern Israel; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf coast, the devastating tsunami in South Asia; wildfires in California; and the September 11 terror attack on the U.S.

Hubbard Street brings Israeli culture to the stage in Chicago

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03/08/2011

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Sharon Eyal working with Hubbard Street dancers at Hubbard Street Dance Center. 
Photo by Benjamin Wardell.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is bringing Israeli culture to the stage in Chicago this month.

In what they are calling “one of the most culturally significant initiatives” in the company’s history, Hubbard Street will “unite Chicago audiences with Israel in a cultural expression through dance” in a full evening of works by two Israeli choreographers from the Batsheva Dance Company in four performances March 17-20.

The show will include a new collage, currently untitled, by the Batsheva Company’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin and the world premiere of Too Beaucoup, created by Batsheva house choreographer Sharon Eyal.

Naharin, who has choreographed many works for the Hubbard Street company over the past decade, also had the opportunity to work with the company in Israel in 2009. Naharin’s piece will be a collage of past works, all based on and inspired by the synergy of the “Gaga” method of movement researched and developed by Naharin himself.

“Gaga is amazing,” Eyal, a protégé of Naharin said of his style. “It’s dancing from joy and fresh and good material in the body…You move, and you have an instructor who says what to do, but it’s a lot in your imagination, through your body, through the physicality and it’s really deep work. It’s influenced me for my life.”

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Hubbard Street dancers Benjamin Wardell, Christian Broomhall and Alejandro Cerrudo in Sharon Eyal’s Too Beaucoup.
Photo by Rose Eichenbaum.

This new medley—a showcase of work that Chicago audiences have not seen before—will feature a uniquely varied soundtrack including music ranging from Vivaldi to The Beach Boys.

Chicago audiences will also experience the world premiere of Too Beaucoup, created by Eyal and her co-creator Gai Behar.

Too Beaucoup, meaning “too too much” in French, aims to manipulate and replicate precise and robotic movement that offers a sense of watching a 3-D video. Costumes—designed by Behar, lighting by Avi Yona Bueno and a soundtrack designed by Israeli musician and DJ Ori Lichtik all contribute to the unique quality of the piece.

When asked to describe their work, Behar said to “expect the unexpected” and to look forward to viewing “authentic Israeli art.”

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Hubbard Street dancer Kellie Epperheimer in Sharon Eyal’s Too Beaucoup.
Photo by Rose Eichenbaum.

“For us, structure, composition, dynamics of movements or complex of stuff can be very, very emotional,” Eyal said. “I don’t like to put it in a frame—I don’t know what it is. It’s movement, it’s action, it’s feelings. Maybe it’s more when people dance in the street. It’s a lot of human. There is no frame for it.”

They said the piece does carry some of their Israeli culture, but they are also influenced by daily life and their surroundings.

“Every place that you are, you get inspired,” Eyal said. For me it’s not culture, it’s more about daily life. So it’s maybe [partly influenced by Israeli culture], but it’s part of something bigger.”

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Spring Series will take place Thursday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolf Drive, Tickets, priced from $25 to $94 are available for purchase by calling (312) 850-9744, at  www.hubbardstreet.com , or at The Harris Theater box office located at 205 E. Randolph Drive.

***Oy! readers can enjoy a 25% discount on a regular priced ticket (excluding section 5 seating) – use code “Israel”.

8 Questions for Seth Herkowitz, deli man, Michigan native, Mr. Hospitality

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03/01/2011

8 Questions for Seth Herkowitz photo

By my estimation, Seth Herkowitz is living every Jewish man’s dream—as operating partner of Steve’s Deli in River North, he is constantly surrounded by corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.

Seth, who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, has always been interested in hospitality. His godparents opened the original Steve’s Deli 1994, and it quickly grew to become the premier deli spot in Southeast Michigan. After completing his undergrad at the University of Michigan and getting a joint law and business degree at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Seth and his godparents decided to open another location in Chicago. When Seth saw a for lease sign in the window of the building across from the East Bank Club in River North, he knew he had the right location and Steve’s Deli opened at 354 West Hubbard in the fall of 2008.

So whether you love yourself some Jewish deli, like to spend your time outdoors on the lake or have connections in Michigan, Seth Herkowitz is a Jew You Should Know!

1.What is your favorite blog or website? 
Detroit Free Press [to stay connected] with home.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
Anywhere with my wife—but Italy and Switzerland would be great!

3. If a movie was made about your life, who would play you?
Who better to choose than Mr. George Clooney

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? 
Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) and Abraham Lincoln

5. What's your idea of the perfect day? 
Wake up and water ski in Michigan, followed by spending a day outdoors on a lake in the summer with family and friends

6. What do you love about what you do? 
I love building a business and interacting with our loyal customers

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Corporate lawyer

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? 
JUF’s YLD Big Event.

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